Every few years, I seem to go through my home and repaint almost all of the wooden furniture. I’m not exaggerating – I really do. Most of my wood pieces started out with stained wood tone finishes and have since moved through the cycle of black, white and now, in the case of many pieces, white washed. White washing wood furniture is one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest paint treatments that you can do to liven up a piece of furniture.
While I have always loved white-painted furniture and all things light and airy, I was hesitate to paint too many of my wood pieces white for our new home because the house is full of white woodwork, white cabinetry, white ceilings, white shiplap, white board and batten – you get the idea. A lot of white furniture on top of all that white would result in a very washed out looking home, and I was going for restful, not washed out. Not content to leave many of my pieces wood toned, or black (my black furniture phase finally passed a few years ago) I decided that white washing would compliment the light gray and white colors of our new home.
White washing could not be more simple. In the case of these tables (which were all a lovely black), I painted each of them with some left over taupe latex paint. Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige http://www.sherwin-williams.com would be a good choice if you like the beige color I used. After you have a few coats of your base color on the piece, simply take a small amount of white latex paint (I used Sherwin Williams Pure White) and mix it with a little bit of water to make a little glaze. You want the glaze to be the consistency of milk. I know there are lots of speciality glazing products that you can buy, but I’ve always had pretty good luck with paint and water so I’ve stuck with this approach.
Next, take your glaze and apply it to a section of your furniture piece, fairly heavily. I usually use a paper towel for this application, but a soft rag, or even a foam paint brush would work fine as well. Once you have the glaze on the piece, you can then determine how much you want to leave on and how much you want to take off. This is really a matter of preference. I tend to like a very heavy white wash, so I leave most of the glaze on the piece. If you are looking for a lighter touch, simply wipe off more. Because the glaze is made with water, it is very easy to wipe away. Regardless of whether you are going for a heavy or a light white wash, the key is to get the glaze into all of the nooks and crannies of the piece – that is what gives it the pretty white washed effect. You can repeat the glazing process a second time if you didn’t get a heavy enough white wash or if you wiped off too much.
After the piece is dry, I take a good look at it to make sure that I’ve achieved the look I was going after. Sometimes, I haven’t quite gotten the look I was after so I add a little dry brushing to the piece. Dry brushing is even easier than using a glaze. Simply take a paint brush, dip it in white paint, then remove most of the paint by wiping it on surface (cardboard works well), and then lightly use the brush to go over those parts of the furniture that you think need more character. Always keep a wet paper towel handy when you dry brush, because unlike the glazing technique that takes a while to set and dry, the paint from the dry brush will set pretty quickly and you will need to remove it with water if you get too much paint on an area. Once the glaze and paint are completely dry, the furniture is ready for a coat of clear varnish.
One of the great things about a white washed finish is that you can apply it to almost any painted furniture. In addition to the taupe tables, I’ve white washed gray tables, gray cabinets, pink tables and blue chairs. It has such a softening effect that makes it a very useful technique for changing the look of wood. Have you had good luck white washing furniture? Let me know – I’d love to hear about it.